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Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s third Yountville restaurant is temporary no more.

The Chronicle reported yesterday that, after much speculation, Keller has decided to leave the homey, prix-fixe eatery intact. Sighs of relief from gushing fans were audible from throughout Wine Country. Our braised beef short ribs and pork loin aren’t going anywhere soon.

Housed in the former Wine Garden restaurant just blocks from Keller’s tony French Laundry, bistro-style Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc was to be a six-month experiment in casual, family-style dinners while he worked out the details for a Napa-style wine and burger bar.

Drawn by the $45 price-tag for dishes like roasted beet and frisee salad, braised beef short ribs (so tender you could cry), artisinal cheese plates and Americana deserts like chocolate brownies with whipped cream, Ad Hoc caught on like wildfire. You can’t go wrong with American comfort food. Critical praise only fanned the flame.

But charm isn’t just that Ad Hoc is good eats. Or that culinary wunderkind Thomas Keller is somewhere behind the scenes (he mostly consults on the menus, leaving Bouchon chef Jeffrey Cerciello to oversee the kitchen). Or that you can usually get a reservation the same week (but don’t try to walk in and get dinner on a weekend night).

It’s that even for a ‘temporary’ restaurant, everything is so Keller “so meticulously done. The wine list is an adventure, with plenty of casual wines by the glass and bottles topping out at $88. Many are under $50. The family-style plates are simple, yet utterly beautiful, nothing slopped on or thrown together. And despite the price, the staff is trained to be attentive and friendly, never to a fault, but treating diners like royalty, rather than cheapskates.

Word is that the restaurant will close briefly in the spring for a few facelifts and minor changes, but no major overhauls. And that’s good news to all of us who knew, from the very start, that the restaurant who’s name means, “For this purpose” couldn’t have be anything else.

If you go: Don’t expect French-inspired haute-cuisine or tiny plates. The portions are generous and the food is strictly home-style Americana. Also, make sure to call ahead for a reservation, no matter what you’ve heard. The reasonably-priced wine list gives diners the opportunity to experiment, so try something fun, like pairing each of the four courses with a different wine.

Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington St., Yountville, 707.944.2487

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